FHDA Board Highlights - Jan. 19, 2010
Budget related highlights from the Jan. 19, 2010 FHDA board meeting.
Enrollment and Program Planning
The college presidents presented the board with an overview of changes in curriculum and course offering resulting from the state's 4 percent reduction in the number of students community colleges serve this year because of budget cuts.
Since the state cut categorical funding by approximately 50 percent this year, President Judy Miner reported that Foothill has cut course sections in adaptive PE by about 28 percent. In addition, other physical education sections have been reduced by about 20 percent over the prior year, reflecting state priorities, while productivity has increased. Foothill has increased course offerings in science, mathematics and engineering by 2.3 percent to meet student demand, and plans to add additional sections this spring. Additional course-section reductions for 2010-11 are expected in adaptive learning and disabled services, library and physical education, Miner said. Unlike De Anza, Foothill does not require students to have PE credits for an associate's degree.
Responding to questions from trustees, Miner said that Foothill strives to maintain a comprehensive curriculum while focusing on the core mission of transfer, career-technical education and basic skills. She said Foothill is exploring shifting some non-core courses to the district's community education program, which is fully supported by fees, and that may cause "sticker shock" among students.
Instead of making targeted reductions, De Anza is reducing course sections across the board and cutting sections that have been historically under-enrolled, said President Brian Murphy. Despite an overall decrease in sections, he said De Anza has increased the number of students in biological and health sciences, language arts and mathematics in order to meet high demand. Murphy said there were small decreases in PE, business and computer information systems, applied technologies, social sciences and humanities. He said the campus is planning for lower enrollments and some program discontinuance next year and is working on a reorganization of student support programs.
Murphy said De Anza's decisions reflect its commitments to offering basic skills, maintaining a comprehensive curriculum and trying to balance student demand with maintaining the integrity of the curriculum. He said the college will not increase the student-teacher ratio in ESL and composition, and is committed to keeping distinctive courses and programs, such a performance classes. During the budget planning processes, he said, divisions had to determine "what is core." In many cases, this has meant giving priority to lower-level courses at the expenses of more advanced courses. Murphy said De Anza has not cut PE as deeply as at Foothill because it is a degree requirement and more De Anza students are younger, less likely to be employed and not as able to afford gym membership. He said the college also plans to begin offering fee-based fitness classes.
Interim Chancellor Mike Brandy noted that only about 5 percent of the district's curriculum is devoted to PE, while the percentage for some community colleges is as high as 25 percent. Brandy also noted that the district is serving about 900 more full-time-equivalent students than the state is funding. He said that raises the question of whether the district can continue offering so many sections.
Interim Chancellor Brandy reported on the governor's proposed budget for 2010-11 and his expectations for the coming budget year. Although much progress has been made on reducing Foothill-De Anza's structural deficit, the district projects it will have a $4.1 million General Fund deficit in 2010-11, Brandy said. This is on top of having to implement $6.5 million in categorical cuts next year that could not be absorbed this year when the state slashed funding for categorical programs after the start of the fiscal year. The bottom line is a total projected district budget deficit of $10.6 for 2010-11 if the state does not make any additional cuts.
Gov. Schwarzenegger's proposed budget is relatively good for community colleges, but unfortunately, Brandy said, the consensus is that the governor is being too optimistic and that additional state spending cuts will be necessary to close a projected $19.5 billion state budget gap ($6.5 billion in the current year and $13 billion in 2010-11).
To deal with the district's $10.6 projected deficit for 2010-11, reduction targets have been set at approximately $1.3 million for Central Services, $4.8 million for De Anza and $4.4 million for Foothill.
These targets will require the elimination of additional positions, which will come to the board on March 8. Some of these positions will have to be eliminated by June 30 this year, while a portion will be carried for up to one year, to June 30, 2011 with what's being called the Escrow II account. However, if the state makes additional budget cuts, the Escrow II positions may have to be eliminated Dec. 31, 2010. (Positions being carried in the current year in the Escrow I account will be let go this coming June 30. As of January, some 18 positions were being supported in the Escrow I account.)
At Central Services, the 2010-11 reductions will be made through B budget cuts, moving some positions from the General Fund to Measure C funding, and position eliminations, said Andy Dunn, vice chancellor of business services.
Describing the "wrenching" decisions the campus has had to make, President Murphy said De Anza expects to have to eliminate as many as 14 positions on June 30, 2010, and temporarily carry 17-18 positions in the Escrow II account. In addition, as part of a reorganization of student support services, he said the college is eliminating the positions of 32 part-time hourly employees who work as readiness teaching assistants in language arts.
At Foothill, 28 positions will be eliminated in 2010-11, President Miner reported. Five positions are currently vacant, six positions will be transferred from General Fund support to other funds, and 17 are filled. Of the filled positions, 13 will be carried in the Escrow II account.
Trustees expressed their appreciation to all who are doing this difficult work and those whose positions are affected. "This is incredibly painful,'' said board President Bruce Swenson. "Thanks for taking it on."
When the issue of exploring a parcel tax came to the board last fall, trustees did not think the timing was right and took no action. Since then, Interim Chancellor Brandy said that two neighboring community college districts have decided to commission polls on voter support for a parcel tax. He suggested that trustees consider the "baby step" of polling the Foothill-De Anza community on attitudes toward a limited-term parcel tax in the range of $25, $50 or $75 to help the district get through the state funding crisis. Such a poll would probably cost about $50,000.
Trustees commented on various considerations, including thinking through the timing in relation to area K-12 districts that may also ask voters to approve such a tax. Trustee Betsy Bechtel, who chaired Foothill-De Anza's Measure C bond campaign, noted that proceeding with a poll would not commit the board to putting a parcel tax on the ballot, but understanding the public's opinions would be a critical to making a decision. The board's consensus was to consider the possibility of initiating a poll at its Feb. 1 meeting.
A statewide conversation is under way about whether California community colleges should proactively take a position in support of a "reasonable and predictable" enrollment-fee increase rather than wait for a fee increase proposed by the state Legislature. Although the board was not being asked to take a position at this time, Interim Chancellor Brandy said he wanted trustees to be informed about the debate. The Chancellor's Advisory Council has recommended taking a strategic approach and not getting out in front on this issue. A big question is whether community colleges would get to keep the revenue from a fee increase, noted Trustee Laura Casas Frier, or whether it would go to the state's General Fund. President Murphy suggested that any proposal for a fee increase should be tied to restoration of competitive Cal Grants.
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